Aug 29

Quick Source for Data on Metro Areas

Checking out a new city for a job?  Or need some quick stats for a story where you are working?  The Data Dashboard, part of the Urban Institute‘s Metro Trends is a helpful resource.

You will find 366 metro areas profiles with charts and stats on:

  • unemployment
  • housing prices
  • net migration
  • jobs gain or loss
  • crime

Here’s one of the tables from my home city, Syracuse, showing housing prices, compared to US averages. I’m pleased to see we’re above average!


This would also be a useful resource to compare how your metro area is doing compared to the next one down the road.

What other gems have you found lately that you’d like to share? Drop me a note below.

Posted in Backgrounding for News Stories, Finding Sources | Leave a comment
Aug 21

Resources Related to March on Washington

march_on_dcThe 50th anniversary of the March on Washington is Aug. 28 with many events planned leading up to it, including a March this Saturday.  If you want to pitch a story related to the marches or if your newsroom is planning special coverage, Ready Reporter has resources for quicker, better and smarter coverage.

Some potential story leads and resources in your area might be:

  • Local chapters of NAACP, Urban League, ACLU, or other civil rights or advocacy groups to find locals who went to the march for a profile
  • Pastors of African-American congregations to find locals who marched
  • Photographs from that era at your local historical archives
  • Librarian who may have access to the archives of the local paper for on Aug. 28 and 29 to see how the story was covered
  • Interview with a university historian or African American studies professor about the impact of the march

You can find helpful background resources here:

Posted in Finding Sources, Finding Stories | Leave a comment
Aug 14

15 Minutes To Being a Much Better Searcher

It’s the time when professors are readying their syllabi and class preps. I always do a session on how to be a good researcher early in every journalism class.

So as I was working on that today I found a great new article on about searching, “How Proper Research Works.”And if you can give this site 15 minutes, you will be a better searcher…and a better journalist.

Paul Gil, an guide and the person behind @aboutnetbasics, offers a concept I like — determining whether you need to do hard research, soft research, or both.  Hard research, he writes, is facts, stats and scientific information. This is the type journalists generally want.

What he calls soft research is cultural or opinion-based content including consumer product reviews, forums and blogs.

Check out his tricks and tips on which search engines to use, how to stockpile and then how to filter.  Let me know below what works for you or other tips.


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Aug 09

Google Adds In-Depth Section


If you’re like most people,  you don’t scroll down the page of results from a search engine. Research shows most people look at the top 3 or 5. That means you might be missing a great new feature from Google called In Depth.

Nowadays you get more than just a list of results for your search.  Have you noticed that Google, and the other search engines are now providing you more. They’re guessing at other related content that would interest you. For example: definitions, short bios, maps,  similar search terms and more.

Look to the bottom of the screen on Google for a section labeled “in-depth articles.” It only appears on certain broad topics, and Google just rolled it out this week.  For example, here’s what is at the bottom of the page when you search on population growth:


Sure, it’s a selection of what Google thought was important – -here National Geographic, Guardian and New Yorker are the sources. Seems to me to be a great tool for journalists looking to background themselves on a topic.

Read more about it from Google and check it out.

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Aug 05

#5 of 5 Tips on Better Searching: Related Searches

Today’s great Google tip is how to find more sites like one you know of.  Especially if you are researching something that is not very common, you might need more information than the one specialized website you have just found. That’s where the related search comes in.

If you use this format you can find similar sites to one you found helpful:

“key word” related:website-url

You put in the website address, minus the “www” for website-url

For example, if I run a website for a Central New York interfaith group, Women Transcending Boundaries.  If you came across this site in researching something related to interfaith issues, you might want to find other similar sites.  So try this search in Google:, Here is what would come up:



Try it the next time you need more information on  topic.

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Jul 31

#4 of 5 Tips for Better Online Searching: intitle, inurl

Today’s helpful tip is on how to filter searches in another way — by a  certain website title or address.

If you put intitle: or allintitle” before terms then Google will look for those terms you list in the web address (properly known as URL, uniform resource locator).

So let’s say I’ve read several stories in the last week and want to go back to one about CEO Marissa Mayer, but I can’t remember where I read it. I try a few websites and browse my history, but the clock is ticking and I can’t find it.  I do remember a phrase in the title was “work in progress.”  So I do this search in Google:

“marissa mayar” intitle:work in progress 

Here’s what pops up, with the story I want right at the top:


You can also use inurl: if you remember part of the address but can’t find the site, as in:

allinurl: google faq 

As Google explains in its helpful page on search operators,  this search returns documents that both google and faq in the URL (address), such as:

Try it out and see if you’re not a better searcher.  For more of these ways of filtering searches see the Google page underlined above.


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Jul 29

#3 of 5 Tricks for Better Online Searching: Filtering

Filtered search — that’s another of my favorite tricks to help you be a better searcher when using Google or another search engine.

If you know that you want to search just one website, or you know the address of an authoritative site that might have the information, then why search the whole humongous database of that search engine, just search at one particular website. You’ll get fewer and better results.

So here is how to filter a search to one website. While the list of Emmy nominations is easy to find many places, if you saw something in Hollywood Reporter about them and want to go back to it, try this search which follows the standard template:

“key phrase” site:domain.zzz

So it would be

“emmy nomination”


emmy list 2013

Sure you can go to the Hollywood Reporter and look for its search box and type the search in there, but this direct method saves time.

Another example:  This morning I caught part of a fascinating story on National Public Radio about social science research related to people’s unconscious bias for race. I wanted to listen again. I remember that the reporter’s name is  Shankar. If I just put in Shankar race in Google I get 1.4 million hits and what comes up first is not even close, as you see here.


The better search is

Shankar race

It gives me only 202 results, the one I want is at the top, plus I get a bio on the reporter and then another story he did on race, as shown below.



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Jul 25

#2 of 5 Tricks for Better Online Searching: Complex Search Queries

So if you’re one of those who uses Google exclusively or as one of your top preference, here’s some help on using it to be a quicker, better and smarter searcher.

google-logoToday’s tip: write complex search statements.  Avoid just one or two words in a search and you’ll get fewer and better results.

1. No need for and.

Google and most other search engines automatically put an and between your words so a search heat index looks for the words “heat” and “index”.   So no need to put in an and.

2. Use phrases.

Using the quotes, type “heat index”  rather than heat index.  The latter looks for the word heat and the word index on the same page.  So it might pick up a web page talking about economic indicators with the marketing heating up and funds being indexed. If you want to understand about warm weather then you ask the search engine to look for the phrase by putting it in quotes.

Also if you want an exact word  you can put it in quotes, as  Iphone “4”, which will not pick up the Iphone 4s.

3. Use Boolean logic

What the British mathematician George Boole came up with nearly two centuries ago is still good for the 21st century.

  • OR Try synonyms or similar words such as: Zimmerman (trial or verdict). By putting the or words in parantheses then that operation is done together.
  • NOT If you keep getting a word you don’t want, put in the word not  or use a minus sign. Google will not include that word. For example, if you want to find out about the finances of the city of Detroit but get results about the baseball team, the Tigers, try either of these: Detroit finance not Tigers, or Detroit finance -Tigers

 4. Add  special characters

  • The tilde sign, ~,  will search for synonyms when you can’t think of them. Put it before a term and it will look for that term and similar ones. So ~inexpensive, Google says,  will bring up inexpensive as well as cheap, affordable and low cost
  •  The asterisk searches for a missing word in a phrase so if you wanted to know when the Bill of Rights was adopted you could think what sentence might have that that information in it and replicate it. For example, the Bill of Rights was adopted in * 
Posted in Searching | Leave a comment
Jul 22

#1 of 5 Tricks for Better Searching Online: Use >1 Engine

The song Stuck_Like_Glue by Sugarland keeps running around in my head when I think about how people use search engines. Everyone is stuck on Google.

That’s not bad, but Google should not be your only search engine, even if it is your usual search engine.  That’s because each search engine uses a different algorithm for its searches.

Most people think that when they type in a word or two into a Google search box, or any search engine, that Google goes out on the whole web sleuthing and returns results instantaneously. But sorry to disappoint you, that’s not what happens.  Instead you are searching a database compiled by so-called spiders that spin out around the internet and categorize it. Those spiders visit some sites many times a day, some once a day, maybe some even less. Some go deep into a page and its links; some not so far.

If you don’t believe you get different results from different search engines, open up two different search engines and  put them side by side. Type in the same search query in and see how they are different.  Here’s an example for the search heat index in both Google and Bing:


The first listing on each site is different and while some results on the page are the same, many are not. My point – -the search engines really ARE different.

Granted, a lot of times you get what you want with Google, but for in-depth researching the lesson for today is — use more than one search engine.

And since most of you are still “stuck on glue,” er, Google, come back in a few days and get more @ReadyReporter tips this week and next on using Google more effectively.



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Jul 19

How do you know what’s on is true?

One of the new social media apps that has great promise for reporting  is, as outlined in the last post (below).

But when touting her new product before an audience of investigative reporters at IRE last month, Jennifer Peck was quick to note that while you can be sure the tweet, post, pin or picture on came from that location, that doesn’t mean it is necessarily valid.

Remember this fake photo:


It came from the right location, but it was a photoshopped image, according to Mashable’s article on seven fake Hurricane Sandy photos.

So you need to verify photos that you find on social media:

  • use other sources to compare
  • use more than online sources
  • figure out who  the original source is
  • talk to the original source, ideally by phone, to determine if s/he is really that person and has reason to know or have this  information.

To check if a photo has been changed, see this Ready Reporter post on how to debunk photos.

For more helpful tips, I recommend this blog post “how to verify information from tweets” from Steve Buttry, a digital editor at the Journal Register company.


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